Springbrook Rescue
HomeThe VisionSpringbrook — A Natural WonderThe Springbrook Rescue ProjectSupport the ProjectAbout ARCS

The Science

Goals and objectivesConceptual modelsProjects

Science Projects

Wireless sensor networkPlant growthFungiBirdsMicroclimateCritical habitatPhoto monitoring

Plant Growth Monitoring (SP1) and Community Assembly (SS2) Projects

To support our rainforest restoration project, in 2008 ARCS established standardised long-term monitoring plots for assessing system responses to disturbances or stress at the individual, population, community, and landscape levels of biological organisation.

The cost of the project to date has been $150,000 in labour and materials excluding analysis.

Assessments are directed at detecting healthy function or dysfunction in community assembly processes, successional dynamics, and plant productivity across the wide range of environmental gradients found on recovery areas. The primary aims of this monitoring program are:

(a) to provide a solid empirical basis for deciding if, what and when active interventions might be required to assist natural regeneration;

(b) to test the usefulness of our adopted ecological conceptual models and decision framework;

(c) to assist development of an effective plant community assembly and growth model

The first plots were established as a pilot program in April 2008 (24/04/2008), at the very beginning of the restoration project. To date, fifteen plots have been established across three properties (Warblers, Ashmiha and Pallida in the Mundora, Ee-jung and Boy-ull Creek catchments respectively) to monitor recruitment, growth, mortality and reproductive phenology of native plants and the effects of species interactions such as competition, facilitation, herbivory and disease on ecosystem dynamics. Each formal plot is 16.7 m x 16.7 m (a grid cell totalling 278 m2) and nested within a larger continuous grid-based monitoring system of 150 m x 150 m (See Photomonitoring Project.). Each plot is further subdivided into 81 equal subplots.

Catchment / Property


Mundora Creek / “Warblers in the Mist”

A343, A429, A448 and A518
D223, D237, D326 and D339

Ee-jung Creek / Ashmiha

C’660, C’760, C’850 and C’860

Boy-ull Creek / Pallida

A689, G361 and G367

This image indicates a 16.67 m x 16.7 m grid cell in the D Block at Warblers. The location of each regenerating
native plant in the cell is marked with a pink marker. Permanent steel star pickets mark plot corners.
Photo: Keith Scott

Growth monitoring plots are shown in red. Image prepared by Keith Scott using ArcGIS

Regular seasonal assessments began in 2009. Seventeen measure periods have been completed at the end of 2012. At the beginning of each season (mostly regardless of weather conditions), each plant within 81 subplots per plot is assessed, measuring height and other physical characteristics as well as recording general health, a leaf area index, levels of growing tip, leaf or stem herbivory, mortality, etc. Indices for soil and litter condition, competition and facilitation are recorded separately. At the last measure in 2012, 240 person hours were spent in the field on growth measurements involving 4800 plants. A further 20 person hours were spent entering results into a database. An optimal recording team comprises three experts each accompanied by a citizen science volunteer. Generally the same experts are involved to minimise inter-observer variability. Incidental records are kept of wildlife heard from or present on the plots. Invertebrates are photographed on site and/or taken to the laboratory for identification and photographing before being released back to the site from which they were taken (Project SBD3). Recording of fungi present on plots is also carried out as part of Project SBD2

Manual recording has been found to be more suitable than digital devices such as a Trimble® Nomad® rugged hand-held computer, which we trialled, due to the complexity of data entry required of volunteers on which we depend.

Photopoint recording of changes at each plot is carried out annually or associated with management interventions according to procedures outlined in Project SP3.

Analysis of data is assisted by results from associated projects that measure the effects of the local and regional species pool (Projects SSP 1-3), and the abiotic conditions pertaining at each site (Projects SRC1, SRC2, SRC3). Management interventions are recorded and their effects analysed, and fed back into the Decision Framework to assist adaptive management.

To date, a range of both wind- and animal-dispersed species is occurring among the regeneration. Five of these are rare or endangered. More than 50 species from 42 genera and 25 families have been recorded from the growth plots to date.

Wind-dispersed species recorded in regeneration sites include

Animal-dispersed species include:

Acacia melanoxylon
Acacia obtusifolia
Acacia orites
Austrobuxus swainii
Callicoma serratifolia
Cassinia subtropica
Correa lawrenciana var. glandulifera
Eucalyptus campanulata
Eucalyptus oreades
Kunzea ericoides
Leptospermum polygalifolium var. montanum
Lomatia arborescens
Melaleuca pallida
Orites excelsa

Cryptocarya foveolata
Decaspermum humile
Duboisia myoporoides
Elaeocarpus grandis
Elaeocarpus reticulatus
Homolanthus nutans
Lenwebbia prominens
Linospadix monostachya
Persoonia media
Pilidiostigma glabrum
Pittosporum undulatum
Polyscias sambucifolia
Myrsine howittiana
Rhodamnia maideniana
Sarcopteryx stipata
Synoum glandulosum
Trochocarpa laurina
Wilkiea huegeliana

A weather station associated with plots A343 and A448 (Warblers, September 2010). Weather stations are also installed in the Warblers D plots and at Pallida. Photo: Keith Scott

Accurate plot locations are marked using a Trimble® differential GPS accurate to 20 cm. Photo: Keith Scott

The following is a small selection of photographs taken during growth plot measurements carried out at the beginning of each season since 2008. These represent the results of recruitment, growth and mortality during the preceding season. All photos taken by Aila Keto except where indicated.

Drs Fran Thomas and Keith Scott measure and record multipl parameters associated with regenerating native forest on Plot A518.
Photo: Aila Keto

Eucalypts already more than 6 m high. Photo: Keith Scott

Peter waiting patiently for the next
measurement to record on Plot A343

Jan working in D growth plots on Warblers

Regine and Jan marking and measuring new plants in Plot A429

Regine and Aila measuring growth in Plot D326 under very wet conditions that often require
waterproof paper and waterproof pens. Photo Rhea Phelan, December 2012

The same plot (D326) photographed from the reference star picket at the NW corner of the plot, on 17/4/2009
before the establishment of the 81 sub-plots within the cell

Keith and Fran take a break to admire last season’s growth in Plot A343

Ingrid and Keith recording growth on Plot G376, Pallida.
Photo: Aila Keto

Fran and Keith measuring growth follow the cold, dry winter season.
Photo: Aila Keto

Rhea measuring and recording growth of tiny seedlings barely 2 cm high.

Leslie, Jan, Keith and Ceris (from left to right) stop for a well-earned coffee break after several hours of
measurements on Ashmiha plots. Photo: Aila Keto

Regeneration on Growth Plot A518. Photo Aila Keto

The fatal results of stem herbivory (ringbarking by the Botany Bay Weevil, larvae) on acacia regeneration
on Plot G376, Pallida. Photo: Aila Keto

Most likely Epicoma melanospila (Family Notodontidae, Subfamily Thaumetopoeinae) found by Keith Scott
on Leptospermum polygalifolium var. montanum at Growth Plot A343, Warblers. The very hairy larvae live in
silk shelters or under the bark. They pupate in the ground litter or in the soil (Zborowski and Edwards (2007).
Photo Aila Keto

The Botany Bay Weevil (Chrysolopus spectabilis; Subfamily Brachycerinae) whose larvae devastate or kill acacia plants by boring into the stem. Photo: Aila Keto

Correa lawrenciana var. glandulifera regenerating on Growth Plot C760 (Ashmiha). This species was last reported at Springbrook in 1978 and rediscovered by ARCS in 2008 on two of the Restoration properties.
Photo: Aila Keto

Closeup of Correa lawrenciana var. glandulifera leaf. Photo: Aila Keto


Zborowski, P. and Edwards, T. (2007). A Guide to Australian Moths. CSIRO. P.175.